I know how it feels to be neglected.
I know how it feels to have a voice that no one else hears.
I know how it feels to have restricted rights.
Indeed, I know how it feels to be you.
Several years ago, I was a little boy with a very narrow ambition. All I ever wanted was to see the beautiful sunrise every morning just to continue my ‘normal’ life. A life in which I got up early hours of the morning and slept extremely late into the night as far as it pleased my master; it was discipline I thought to myself – learn to put others first.
The life that I barely knew both my parents; that must have been a very good head start at being independent.
The kind of life that the fruit of sweat was enjoyed by a superior authority; sacrifice must be the lesson in this scenario.
Each passing day, I couldn’t help but notice the shoes on their feet and watches on their wrists, their large buildings made of concrete walls, the feeling of completion that family gave them and above all, the breath-taking joy of freedom they enjoyed.
Why couldn’t I have the same things? But that seemed like an eternal question and all my optimistic efforts couldn’t answer that correctly.
Being barefooted wasn’t a crime but maybe sometimes those usual domestic injuries could be avoided.
They wore me chains for shoes, handcuffs for wrist watches.
The rain was a blessing from God, I know. But, it knew no boundaries; our thatched roofs always gave the rain permission to our houses irrespective of the time of the day.
Maybe I wanted a bit of space rather than sleeping as though I was a tightly packaged can of sardine.
Maybe I needed to have a feel of family love; I wasn’t sure to go to sleep with the same people I woke up with.
I didn’t want much I just wanted to be free.
Even if that was too much to ask for, it seemed fair enough cos I saw no differences between us: two eyes, two hands, a nose and a mouth. The only difference was just the skin colour but that was all that mattered; it overruled the countless similarities. White over black, that’s how I was raised so I rather just stick to the definition of normal I grew to know because my own definition was more of a fantasy to every other person.
I stood for what I believed, fought until my dreams became reality despite the limitations before me. Finally, I could kiss my dreams, live my fantasy and indeed my joy was matchless. The fight was not an easy one but in the end, it was worth it. Like a fairy-tale, we became a nation. No greater joy than seeing that everyone was equal before the law (no segregation), rights were utilized to their fullest potential, love and unity became normal and more so, the children of this generation didn’t have to suffer what I did. I finally found the courage to say, “Life can be just like a fairy tale when hard work is put into it.”
Fighting for independence was hard but little did I know that there was something even harder; sustaining the independence. The Nigeria I fought for is not the Nigeria I know today. We are way past golden jubilee but almost nothing to show for it, innocent blood pay for the sins of criminals, our legal franchises are purchased every four years with kind gestures that last only but a little while. Our freedom of expression is termed ‘hate speech’, laws are only applicable to the masses.
The evidence of our independence reduces by the second. Indeed, the colonial masters are back in different skin colour and they brought along their own master; corruption. The chains we wore on our feet and wrists are being forced on your lips and minds. So, I dare to ask, “What’s the point of freedom if we’re slaves in our own hands?”
We all deserve the best Nigeria and not just a Nigeria that’s a little better than the present. You can make it happen because this is your fight for the independence of your generation.
Believe in a flourishing Nigeria, a nation that more value is placed on the lives of others, a peaceful and the best Nigeria you could ever think of.
I see Nigeria rising from the ashes like the Phoenix.
I see our mothers having the safest of deliveries.
I see terror and violence far from our land.
I see a Nation that the Father’s love is shared abroad.
I see a Nigeria I can proudly call home.
But all this remains just a golden thought if your vote isn’t put in place.
I implore every youth in every town and every city to vote wisely.
Your vote is your power. Your vote is your right. Your vote is the key to what you want to see in Nigeria. Put away sentiments, tribalism and every form of bias. Religion or even the size and popularity of opposing parties should not be a factor in determining your choice. Don’t trade a 4-year opportunity for a one month salary.
If you can dream a better Nigeria, you can achieve it.
If I did it before, you can do even better.
Again, I say, Vote wisely!!!
by David Elumelu